Robert Boice, Professors as Writers. A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing, Stillwater: New Forums Press, 1990.
My rating: *****
I have read quite a few books on writer’s block and Robert Boice’s work on this subject is by far the most helpful and practical. Even if this particular book is aimed specifically at academic writers, all other writers can benefit from its advice. Having said this, the problem of academic writer’s block is seldom addressed – with most manuals focusing on other types of writing.
In some ways, perhaps, academics are viewed as somewhat on the periphery of the general fold of ‘writers’. Academic writing is something that occurs without the romantic identity of ‘writer’ coming into play. There is an assumption, perhaps, that academic writing is merely reporting on research, rather than engaging in the creative craft shared by other writers.
There are rigorous and practical exercises in Boice’s book which include examining and changing the internal self talk that takes place when the writer thinks of writing. His plain, organised and painstaking academic approach is, for me at least, more helpful than some of the other new age and often slightly kitsch self help manuals available on the market.
Also of interest is the following: Boice set up a study involving 3 groups of academic writers:
1. The first group continued on with their usual habits – which were binge writing in occasional large blocks. This group produced an average of 17 pages a year;
2. The second group wrote every day and kept a personal record of their activity. They wrote an average of 64 pages a year;
3. The third group undertook daily writing AND shared their productivity records with others. This group produced an impressive 157 pages of writing a year.